Viewpoint: How drug coupons keep prices high

While drug coupons allow customers to immediately save money on costly medicines, they keep prices high in the long run, Charles Ornstein writes in an editorial for ProPublica.

Coupons ensure more sales for drugmakers, since customers would likely buy generic versions or not fill the prescriptions at all without the ability to reduce or eliminate the cost of expensive brand name drugs.

When customers use a coupon to buy an expensive brand name drug, pharmacy benefit managers credit them as paying full price for the drug, allowing them to bypass the deductible. Since pharmacies process a patient's insurance first and then enter the co-pay coupon, insurance companies and benefit managers struggle to see how often coupons are used and what effect they have on health plan finances and benefits.

Deductibles and copayments are intended to make consumers monitor how much they spend on healthcare. Since coupons encourage consumers to ignore prices, use of them can cause high cost of drugs to continue to rise, pushing insurers to raise premiums, deductibles and copayments in response.

Supporters of drug coupons argue that insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers raise copays to produce greater profits and that lower prices would increase the likelihood of patients taking the medicine they need.

More articles on the drug market:

Bill Gates: US drug pricing is 'better than most other systems'
Drugmakers target vaccines for a new market: pregnant women
Shire's new ADHD drug proves effective in study

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